Sunday, December 5, 2010

Vision (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

Hildegarde von Bingen was a nun in the 12th century. She is known for being a trailblazer for free expression within the church and her use of herbal remedies was way ahead of her time. Hildegarde was also an advocate of music therapy when it was virtually unknown. Some thought her a heretic because of her groundbreaking belief in the earth and the soul as one symbiotic and sacred element.

Hildegarde was austere fierce and heroic, and the film "Vision" brings her both earthy and ethereal presence to life. From the very start, dirt is ever-present and men are flogging themselves in near darkness. A mural is shown highlighting demons. Everyone thinks the world will end.

No this is not "The Da Vinci Code". The tone in this film is as organic as its subject. The movement is meditative and circular; the camera allows the viewer to linger as if he/she was a medieval dove. The cinematography has thankfully, more in common with Vermeer than Ron Howard, and the film benefits from it.

The woman embodied in Hildegarde von Bingen however, for her time, is every bit as scandalous as Dan Brown. She sees plants as harmonious entities that mirror mens' souls, she sees the concept of healing as human business rather than Divine will and she calls for an expansion of female leadership within the Order.

As portrayed by Barbara Sukowa, Hildegarde is richly rendered as an earthly shaman ahead of her time. Hildegarde sweats, charges and runs. She is not merely an historical archetype. Hildegarde forges ahead in mud and muck, through forest and feild. Resolute and unconventional, she has much in keeping with Gandhi's rejection of the caste system: she encourages the Sisters to dirty their hands with hard physical labor.

Walking through every task, one gets the notion that all the elements move within her and that nothing human or natural was verboten to her. Hildegarde is not adverse to laughing or the mention of sex. Providing it is in word only. To see "Vision" is to get a tangible concrete feeling of this oddly rebellious woman of the cloister.

And I didn't wish once for a lurking albino monk.

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